Original Release Date: 2003
The original Advance Wars was one of the earliest games for the Game Boy Advance, and is still among the best handheld games ever made. It showed that the smaller games for handhelds still had a place in a world where games on home consoles were bigger than ever. It demonstrated that a game could make up for a lack of scope and raw graphical power with a great deal of polish and focus. Indeed, it’s a good example of how limitations can be a good breeding ground for creativity.
So with its success overseas, a sequel was inevitable. But how does it stack up against the original? On the whole, rather poorly. It’s not a bad game by any stretch, and most of what was good about Advance Wars is still present in the sequel.
The problem is that it doesn’t do anything interesting. The first game was almost perfect, so there’s not a whole lot a sequel could add aside from fixing some minor issues, and Advance Wars 2 takes the wrong approach.
Firstly, it didn’t fix any of the problems with the first game. The main campaign is still kind of all over the place, the arbitrary restrictions on what certain units can attack is still present, and fog of war is still alive and well.
Instead, the game introduces various gimmicks that do nothing but clutter gameplay that was fine as it was. It adds new units, new items and types of buildings on the maps, and a bunch of new characters. None of which distracted from the fact of how similar the game is to its predecessor, bringing into question the necessity of its existence.
With a series like Fire Emblem, you can get away with having the gameplay be more or less the same, because typically each new game features a brand new story, setting, and characters, and since character and story are so key in those games, a little sameness in the gameplay is forgivable. So while Fire Emblem 7 and Sacred Stones are extremely similar when it comes to the gameplay, the different stories and characters make each one a distinct and unique experience. But Advance Wars is not at all character and story focused, and so when the sequel plays almost identically to the first, that’s a problem that cannot be ignored.
Let me be clear, Advance Wars 2 is not a bad game. But if you’ve played the first game, there’s literally no reason to play this one. It offers little that’s new, and what it does only diminishes the impact of the first game. Only play it if you really, really liked the first game and just have to see what the sequel is like. And if the first game wasn’t your cup of tea, don’t even bother with this one.
How well it holds up 4/4
Personal Enjoyment 3/5
Overall quality 7/10
For further information about the game: